A Month of Giveaways!
November is a month of book giveaways! First, I’ll be giving away 20 (yes, 20) signed copies of The Sower Comes, book three in my award-winning Solas Beir Trilogy. This is a fantasy series filled with adventure, magic, and romance. Head over to Goodreads by November 21 to enter.
Next, I’m giving away a signed copy of my newest book, Pitcher Plant. This suspense novel is set on the Oregon coast and features murder and restless spirits. It was inspired by a delightfully creepy fixer-upper I almost bought, near the beach in Seaside. To enter the giveaway, like my Facebook author page, or, if you’ve already done that, comment below. This giveaway ends November 28.
Finally, I’m giving away a signed copy of Sunset Empire, which is set in Astoria, Oregon. This novel blends history with fantasy and adds a twist to local monster legends. There’s a ghost in this one too. To enter the giveaway, follow my Twitter account (or, if you’ve already done that, comment below). This giveaway ends November 28 as well.
Best of luck!
© Melissa Eskue Ousley 2017
Marked by Fate
Defined by Their Choices — Marked by Fate.
Champions rise, shadows fall, and magic rules in Marked by Fate: A Fantasy and Science Fiction Collection. Battle alongside gods, travel across foreign lands, and fall for handsome heroes in this action-packed young adult collection featuring witches, shifters, angels, cyborgs, and more. Venture to oceans deep with mermaids, fly upon the backs of dragons, or speak with ghosts in this group of 25 coming of age novels from some of the best writers in the industry today, including USA TODAY and NEW YORK TIMES bestselling authors.
The friendships are real and the romances are breathtaking. Travel through new galaxies, explore fantastic fairy tales, take down dystopian governments, and escape urban fantasy worlds. Full of time travel mysteries and paranormal lore, Marked by Fate is a box set with a message — that all women, no matter the age, can conquer their fears and heartaches to become the fierce, strong heroines they were always meant to be.
Will you fall in love…save the world…or become the villain? Who will you be?
The set features the following authors:
USA Today bestselling author, Kristin D. Van Risseghem
International bestselling author, Rhonda Sermon
International bestselling author, Kelly St. Clare
Amazon bestselling author, Raye Wagner
USA Today bestselling author, Ednah Walters
New York Times bestselling author, Erin Hayes
USA Today bestselling author, Siobhan Davis
New York Times bestselling author, Jamie Thornton
Award-Winning author, Debra Kristi
Amazon bestselling author, Sarah K. L. Wilson
Amazon bestselling author, Hilary Thompson
Amazon bestselling author, Ingrid Seymour
International bestselling author, Jeanne Bannon
USA Today bestselling author, Melle Amade
USA Today bestselling author, Lena Mae Hill
Award-Winning author, C. J. Anaya
International bestselling author, Jackson Dean Chase
Award-Winning author, D. L. Armillei
USA Today bestselling author, Emily Martha Sorensen
Amazon bestselling author, Amalie Jahn
Amazon bestselling author, Dionne Lister
USA Today bestselling author, J.L. Weil
Amazon bestselling author, Alisha Klapheke
USA Today bestselling author, Angela Fristoe
Amazon bestselling author, Meg Cowley
How many books do you read in a month? One? Ten? 30?! (I wish.) The Marked by Fate box set contains a whopping 25 books! Some of the top young adult fantasy and sci-fi writers in the world have combined to give you the best of the best in this collection. Even better? It is on pre-order sale for 0.99c right now. Don’t miss your chance to discover and devour! Secure your copy today.
To celebrate the pre-release of the Marked by Fate box set — we’re offering you the chance to win a $50 Amazon gift card! You can enter here: https://gleam.io/NA6ON/marked-by-fate-giveaway-3
© Melissa Eskue Ousley 2017
City of Books
The best thing about playing tour guide is you see things anew through other people’s eyes. My brother had a business trip in Portland this week, so I made the two-hour trek from the coast to meet him for dinner. We drove over to the Pearl district, and as we were paying for parking, I heard the sound of bagpipes.
“The Unipiper!” I said.
“The what?” he asked.
“He’s this dude who rides around Portland on a unicycle, wearing a kilt and a Darth Vader mask, while playing bagpipes that shoot fire,” I explained. And sure enough, as we crossed the street, we ran into the man himself. The Unipiper was gracious, letting me take a photo with him and giving my brother a keychain before pedaling on his merry way. A pretty good ambassador for the city.
“Okay, you’re done,” I told my brother. “You’ve encountered a quintessential PDX icon. You can go home.”
Then we walked into Powell’s City of Books, and I realized we weren’t finished yet. There was much more to see. If you’ve never been to Powell’s, you should remedy that posthaste. It had been too long since my last visit, and I’m glad we went. The first thing we saw was a display dedicated to all things Oregon: t-shirts, magnets, cutting boards, jewelry…whatever your tourist heart could desire. They even had Bigfoot air fresheners. What more could you want, really? Stegosaurus taco socks? Fine, done. They had those too. Along with posters, book bags, and all kinds of geeky accessories that made me want to blow my paycheck.
I managed to resist, and chose one book to bring home, after my brother recommended it. Ready Player One was a book I’d always meant to read, but hadn’t, so it was nice to have a reminder. He asked me for recommendations on books from Oregon authors. I was thrilled to point out books from writers I love: Chelsea Cain, April Henry, Ursula K. LeGuin, and more. It’s such a joy to talk books with someone and find out you adore the same authors. You love Jim Butcher too? No way! Powell’s is so huge we didn’t even make it to the upper floors. When his arms were full of books and my stomach started growling, we walked over to a pub to eat and chat some more.
Living 1,500 miles apart, we don’t see each other often, so it was great to catch up. Of course, I tried to sell him on moving north by gifting him a book on weird places in Oregon as well as a sand dollar from one of my favorite beaches. I stayed later than I meant to, and didn’t get home until one in the morning, but it was worth it to spend time with my brother.
Driving down the Sunset Highway in the middle of the night, surrounded by trees and patches of fog, I kept an eye out for Bigfoot. It seemed a good night for spotting him. There was a full moon and I’d had a fortuitous encounter with the Unipiper earlier, so why not? Alas…no such luck. My air freshener will have to suffice.
© Melissa Eskue Ousley 2017
Sunset Empire Launch!
Thrilling news! Sunset Empire is finally (finally!) available as both an ebook and paperback on Amazon. I’m so excited to share this book with you, because it’s really a love letter to the north coast of Oregon, blending fantasy with history and showcasing some of my favorite legends and sites from the area.
I’m also elated to share that it is included in the Secrets and Shadows box set, a young adult collection with ten fantasy, paranormal, and sci-fi novels from New York Times Bestselling, USA Today Bestselling, #1 Amazon Bestselling, and award-winning authors. This week Secrets and Shadows became a #1 Amazon Bestseller in the UK. I’m so grateful to all our readers who made this happen.
A few things about Sunset Empire:
- Stay tuned for giveaways on Amazon and Goodreads. I’ll also be giving away a Sunset Empire-themed prize when we reach 1,000 likes on my author page on Facebook.
- I’m currently looking for reviewers for Sunset Empire, so if you’re interested and willing to post reviews on Goodreads and Amazon, message me with your email address. I’ll send you a free ebook.
- Subscribers to my blog are eligible for a free short story or chapter. If you’re interested in receiving one, contact me with your email and I’ll pass that along.
- If you order Sunset Empire now, it will arrive before Christmas.
Here’s a description of the book, and another excerpt. Enjoy, and thanks for reading!
She may be guilty of arson, but she didn’t kill the burned girl haunting her.
After her house burns down, Elyse Pthan is forced to move to Astoria, Oregon to live with the strict grandmother she never knew. Rebelling against her grandmother’s rigid rules, Elyse discovers the terrible heritage her mother kept hidden. Her family may be responsible for the 1922 fire that nearly destroyed Astoria, the death of a girl who longs for vengeance as she haunts the tunnels beneath the city, and mysterious disappearances spanning hundreds of years.
Helping her uncover the truth is Phantom, an enigmatic and surprisingly attractive boy, considering his scars, his talent as a pickpocket, and his status as the local social outcast. A boy with a hidden weapon and a dark heritage of his own, that could turn him from friend to hunter.
Phantom had been tracking the beast when he heard the first scream. It was coming from somewhere within Shively Park. He started running toward the sound, praying he wasn’t too late.
The creatures were growing bold. The one he was following had left its usual territory in the woods southeast of the city, and ventured alarmingly close to the Astoria Column, a popular place for tourists and locals alike. He wondered if the beast had been spotted by any of the visitors who had climbed the column’s spiral staircase for a view of the Columbia. He doubted it. On a sunny day, you could see all the way to the Pacific Ocean from that vantage point, but the day was overcast with a misty rain. In low light, the creatures camouflaged themselves so well against the backdrop of the forest, most people wouldn’t recognize them for what they were until it was much too late to get away.
Phantom had never seen one out in the open, but he knew they crossed roads sometimes because he’d seen deer carcasses outside the monsters’ traditional hunting zones. He’d even spent the night in a tree before, observing the creatures’ nocturnal activities. They liked the dark. At night, they had no need for camouflage. Darkness shielded them from detection, allowing them to move freely without fear of hunters like himself.
Running silently down the path toward the old bridge, Phantom could hear glass breaking. Someone, a girl, by the sound of her screams, was making a whole lot of noise. That was bad. She was about to attract the wrong kind of attention.
He couldn’t see the creature, but it was close. He could smell it. The air was thick with the pungent smell of death.
Phantom checked his weapon and then left the path, trying to stay hidden in the thick brush. He padded uphill so he’d have a better view of the bridge. He would need a clear visual of the beast to take aim.
He crouched down in a clump of ferns, behind a tree. Peering around the trunk of the tree, he could see her—the new girl, Elyse. What was she doing here? He thought back to his encounter with her at the battery and then later in the alley. She certainly had a knack for finding trouble.
She retrieved something from her pack and cradled it in her hands, before hurling it at the bridge like she was pitching a baseball. He cringed as the tea cup shattered, and looked around frantically, trying to spot the beast.
Out of the corner of his eye, he saw it coming—a blur of dark fur that seemed to blend in with the forest. The girl was poised, ready to launch another cup at the wall, when she seemed to suddenly realize something was wrong. She whirled around, a look of sheer terror on her face.
Phantom took aim at the dark shape bearing down her and released the bolt. To his horror, he missed.
Want more Sunset Empire? Get it here. Happy reading!
© Melissa Eskue Ousley 2016
So, You Want to be a Writer…
Sometimes I get questions from readers, and I enjoy answering them. I know a lot of you out there are into writing, so I think you’ll find this interesting. Here’s the question and my answer.
“I have a question for you since you are a published writer. Was it hard to get your work published? How did you decide on genre? I would like to start writing and just didn’t know how to get started.”
Well, when I began this journey, I wasn’t sure how to get started either. I was an avid reader, but I knew nothing about the publishing industry—how the process works, how to query an agent, how presses choose what they will publish—none of that. I’ve been doing this for a number of years now, and I’ve learned a lot of hard lessons. I still don’t have all the answers, but maybe what I’ve learned will make your path easier.
I started writing because I had a story in my head and I wanted to see how it would play out. I can’t say I set out with genre in mind. I was simply writing the kind of story I wanted to read. I wrote a fantasy story with a teen protagonist, so my books are classified as young adult fantasy. At some point, the story took shape and became a novel, and I thought I’d attempt to get it published. Thus began years (YEARS!) of querying agents. Scary, right? Okay, stay with me—don’t get frightened away just yet.
One thing I did correctly is I finished the novel before sending out queries. This is important, because if an agent likes your fiction, they will want to read the whole story. If you don’t have a completed manuscript, game over. (For non-fiction, it’s different. You query with a proposal which may include an outline and sample chapters, depending on the agent’s submission guidelines, and the book does not have to be finished.) So, step one, finish your story.
How do you get started? Begin with short stories or with characters in a scenario, and write every day if you can. Try for an average of 1,000 or more words a day. If you do that every day for three months, you’ll have a novel of 90,000 words. (A note on length: 80-90 thousand words is a good range for a book, depending on genre.) It may take you more than three months, because, let’s face it, other obligations get in the way. But keep going. Don’t worry if it sucks. That’s what revision is for. Finish that first draft.
While you’re working on your book, read as much as you can. Read books similar to yours. Read books that are different too. Think critically about what you read, noting the choices an author makes. Think about what works and what doesn’t. Read books on the craft, and challenge yourself to do better. My favorite writing book is On Writing by Stephen King. It’s a practical and entertaining read, and the guy knows what he’s talking about.
Step two, edit your story. Polish it as much as you can, then give it to a beta reader for critical feedback. After reading your book a number of times, you’ll no longer be able to see the typos. Find somebody smart to give you an honest critique, who you trust to have your best interests in mind. Somebody who can be brutal, but who you’ll still talk to afterward. I have friends who do this for me, people who I respect deeply, who are intelligent and can tell me the truth, whether I’ve got a plot hole or my fly is down. You might also consider hiring a professional editor. The cost is worth it. I truly believe that without my editor, my work wouldn’t be as strong, and I wouldn’t have found a publisher. Another option is to join a writing group. Your fellow writers can give you feedback on your writing and may have insight into the publishing industry.
Your book needs to be as strong as it can be before you send it to agents or publishers, because if your sample pages have too many errors, they will get annoyed and stop reading. Agents get thousands and thousands of queries. Publishing is a competitive industry. If you want to get through the slush pile, your query letter and sample work need to be free of errors and compelling enough to keep them reading. Great writing doesn’t guarantee a contract, however, so don’t take rejections personally. Even if you write beautifully, the agent has to be able to sell your work. Sometimes they love your concept, but there’s no market for it.
That doesn’t mean you should give up. If you really want to do this writing thing, keep going. Research the industry—what type of books agents represent and how to write an effective query letter. Two good resources for this are WritersDigest.com and BookDaily.com. I also recommend reading How Can I Find A Literary Agent?: And 101 Other Questions Asked By Writers by agents Chip MacGregor and Holly Lorincz. It’s full of practical advice to help you as you query. In the meantime, you can keep writing, working on your second book, right?
Do you need an agent to get published? No, but most large publishing houses won’t review your work without one. You can also publish your work independently, not going with a publisher at all. The advantage to that is you make all the choices about how your book will look, and you keep the profits. The disadvantage is the market is flooded with independently published books, and without exposure and a distributor, your book won’t be on shelves in stores unless you do the work to get it there. (I’m oversimplifying for the sake of brevity here—the process for getting books in stores is complicated.)
So how did I get published? I went a different route. I attended a local writing conference called Summer in Words, which I highly recommend if you’re in the Pacific Northwest. There, I met a publicist who also serves as a book shepherd. A book shepherd functions like an agent, except instead of working with an author long-term and on commission, the shepherd sends out proposals on your behalf for a fee. Our proposal package consisted of a description of my book, my bio, a list of comparable titles, sample pages, and a marketing plan. We sent it to ten small publishers who did not require representation by an agent. One of them offered me a publishing contract for my young adult trilogy.
I’m grateful to all the people who helped me get published—beta readers, my editor, my book shepherd, my publisher, other authors who mentored me…I’ve learned much through the process. I’ve learned about the industry in marketing my books and in working as an editor for another press. It’s interesting to be on the other side, to be the person critiquing submissions. You gain insight into what works with queries and what doesn’t.
It’s tough to get published. Believe me, I know. I’m in the trenches with you right now. I’m still looking for representation by an agent, but I get more requests for full manuscripts than I used to, so I’m getting closer. I’ll keep you posted if I get an offer. I still have a lot to learn, but I’m hopeful I’ll find the right publishing home for my new books. I’ll keep going, and if you want to get published, you keep going too. Don’t give up.
I hope that answers the question. If you have more questions, send them my way. I’ll help if I can. Best of luck.
© Melissa Eskue Ousley 2016
Monsters of the PNW: Colossal Claude
The mouth of the Columbia River is a dangerous place. The bar is so deadly, it’s been dubbed the Graveyard of the Pacific. Hundreds of ships have wrecked at the Columbia Bar, thanks to the fire hose force of the river mixing with tumultuous ocean waves. Add in gale force winds and constantly shifting sand bars, and you can see why this part of the world is so wild.
It’s wild in other ways too. Orcas frequent the mouth of the river, feasting on salmon. Great White sharks cruise the coastline, hunting seals. Humpback whales have been spotted 14 miles inland, near the Astoria-Megler bridge. This towering green bridge spans the four-mile-wide river, connecting Oregon to Washington. The Columbia River is also rumored to be home to a sea monster.
Colossal Claude has been described as being about 40 feet long, including an eight-foot-long neck. Its body is said to be round, ending in a tail. The beast’s head has been alternately described as looking like a maned camel, or having an “evil, snaky look.” Some people believe the creature resembles a plesiosaur, comparing it to the Loch Ness Monster.
One of the first reported sightings of the monster was in 1934, by the crew of the Columbia River Lightship, a floating lighthouse. As the story goes, the crew observed the animal for some time using binoculars. They wanted to take a lifeboat out to get a better look at the creature, but officers denied the request out of worry the beast would capsize the small boat.
Three years later, another crew reported seeing the creature. Skipper Charles E. Graham on the commercial fishing trawler Viv provided a hauntingly similar description to what the crew of the lightship had reported. Around the same time, about 150 miles down the Oregon coast, near a rocky area known as the Devil’s Churn (south of Yachats), a couple reported seeing a similar animal.
In 1939, the crew of the Argo, another fishing vessel, got a close encounter near the mouth of the Columbia when the creature reared up over ten feet above the water. It watched them calmly as it took a twenty-pound halibut of the ship’s lines and ate it. According to the ship’s captain, Chris Andersen, the creature’s “head was like a camel’s. His fur was coarse and gray. He had glassy eyes and a bent snout.”
The description of Claude having fur makes me wonder if the creature could be some kind of long-necked seal (assuming it actually exists). The waters of the Columbia and the Pacific are frigid, but marine mammals thrive here. Our river is teeming with fish and both seals and sea lions make their homes in the river and along the coastline.
The water is much too cold for a marine reptile, but the idea of a plesiosaur on the Oregon coast is not that outlandish. In 2003, paleontologists discovered a plesiosaur skull near Mitchell, Oregon. This 25-foot-long reptile lived about 80 to 90 million years ago. Called the “Tiger of the Cretaceous Seas,” it was a top predator and a powerful swimmer. There’s a deep trench at the mouth of the Columbia. It is possible a similar creature could have survived and remained hidden, except for rare sightings?
Here’s something else to consider. Colossal Claude isn’t the only sea monster in the Pacific Northwest. There’s also Caddy (short for Cadborosaurus), a sea serpent allegedly living in Cadboro Bay in Greater Victoria, British Columbia. Then there’s the Ogopogo, a similar creature in Okanagan Lake in British Columbia. Both Caddy and Ogopogo are described as having horse-like heads and long necks. There have been over 300 reported sightings of Caddy, and the creature is often described as having anterior and posterior flippers. Interestingly, a Caddy-like creature has been found within the legends of indigenous people throughout the Pacific Northwest, from Vancouver to Alaska. The Inuit people put a picture of the creature on their canoes to keep it away.
What do you think? Does Colossal Claude exist? I don’t know if it does, but I have a feeling there are still a few mysteries lurking under the surface of the Columbia River.
© Melissa Eskue Ousley 2016
Ping Pong Paddle
When I was in second grade, I got into big trouble at school.
This was an anomaly for me—I was quiet in class and generally obeyed the rules. The only prior blot on my behavior record was in the first grade, when I got shushed by the teacher for talking to a friend during silent reading time. I dutifully returned to reading, but then I was ordered to sit in the corner when someone else made a noise and the teacher thought it was me. Unjust, but even teachers make mistakes.
I had a good friend who lived in my neighborhood in elementary school. We played well together until we got a new girl in our class. Our classmate was someone we both wanted to befriend. The three of us were skipping rope on the playground, and it was my turn to jump while they turned the rope.
At that age, I was one of the tallest kids in my class. I was so gangly, my mom bought me boys’ jeans to wear for the length and fit, because girls’ jeans were too short and slipped off my skinny frame. My friend was petite, and much more coordinated. She’d climb the jungle gym, sling a leg over a metal bar, and flip over and over. The best I could do was hang upside down by my knees and pray I didn’t land on my face.
As I tried to jump rope, my feet got tangled and I stumbled, which meant I was out and had to let someone else take a turn jumping. It wasn’t the first time I’d failed at jumping rope (nor would it be the last), but this time my friend made fun of me to impress the new girl.
That was when I made a mistake. I was angry and I didn’t think. I just acted. I kicked my friend in the shin. I was as surprised by this as everyone else, and as soon as I’d done it, I knew I had crossed a line. I felt horrible about it.
Then, things got worse. My friend went and told the playground monitor. It was my terrible luck that the teacher’s aide on duty was the meanest monitor around. I remember her towering over me, shouting at me to go to the principal’s office.
This was a nightmare. I’d gone from little Miss Goody-Two-Shoes to a hardened criminal because of one thoughtless act. The worst part was that in those days (ahem, thirty-something years ago), corporal punishment was permitted. Teachers were allowed to swat students on the bum. I knew that the principal had a big green ping pong paddle on her desk for just that purpose. It was a school legend.
I also knew I had transgressed, so I lifted my chin and marched off to the principal’s office to take my punishment.
It was a long walk.
Along the way, I thought about what I’d done and what my parents would think. I’d said sorry, but it wasn’t enough.
Humbled, I reached the principal’s office and meekly asked her administrative assistant if the principal was in. The woman smiled and said no.
In that instant, I realized this nice lady had no idea why I was there. The playground monitor hadn’t given me a behavior slip and was unlikely to follow up.
I leapt at my chance for escape. I smiled and said, “That’s okay. Thank you.” Then I left.
My rear end remained unpaddled. I got in a little trouble when I got home. My friend’s mother called my mom and told her what happened at school that day. I apologized, and the girl and I became friends again.
Still, though I truly was sorry for what I did, I wasn’t sorry for cheating fate.
© Melissa Eskue Ousley 2015